First published in Leader Magazine, 1948
Keeping alive the romantic tradition that painters ought to live in extreme discomfort, somewhere near starvation level, is Austin Osman Spare, who has just held an exhibition at London's Archer gallery, with over 150 studies in "Psycho-Physiognomy" and, to quote his catalogue, "an admixture of spivs, ghosts, hoboes, layabouts, fiddlers and others."
Austin Osman Spare, a policeman's son, once looked like being a fashionable painter. But Mr Spare decided to paint in London's Elephant and Castle, choosing as models the ordinary people of Lambeth. He rarely charged more than ?5 each for them, but they became collector's pieces.
In 1941, fire and high explosive totally obliterated his studio flat, depriving him of his home, his health and his equipment. For three years he struggled to regain the use of his arms and now at last his work is on view again, paintings which he has done in the cramped basement in Brixton where he now lives with eight or nine cats as company. This studio flat is a mass of litter, the artist himself works in an old Army shirt and tattered jacket. He has no bed. But he still charges an average of ?5 per picture.
Spare's hobby is the occult. "By turning my head involuntarily" he announces, "I can always see my alter ego, familiars or the gang of elementals that partly constitute my being."